A lumbar strain occurs when paraspinal muscle fibers or tendons are overstretched or torn. Lumbar strain accounts for the majority of the lower back pain of mechanical origin. It may result from a single episode of heavy weight lifting or sudden twisting motion of the lower back, or chronic repetitive stress, especially in people with demanding physical jobs. Risk factors for lumbar strain are weak abdominals and back extensors, tight hamstrings, overweight, forward-tilted pelvis, and excessive lumbar lordosis.
- Back pain in the lumbar muscles area. It may also be felt in the buttocks/hips. The pain is exacerbated by standing or twisting motions.
- A decrease in the range of motion of the lumbar spine and stiffness.
- Muscle spasm and tenderness.
- Abnormal posture due to pain and stiffness.
- Difficulty in standing or walking.
- The lower back is sore to the touch.
Lumbar strain usually resolves within two weeks in 90 percent of the cases with anti-inflammatory medication, muscle relaxants, relative rest, physiotherapy modalities, spinal stretches, and exercises. If the pain persists for more than two weeks, one might have to go for an X-ray, CT Scan, and MRI to determine the pathology and further course of action under the guidance of your doctor.
Stretches for Lumbar Strain–
- Knee to Chest Stretch– Lying on your back, pull one knee to the chest by grasping below the thigh. Keep the other leg straight. Hold for 10-15 seconds and repeat ten times on each side.
- Piriformis stretch-Lie on your back. Bend your right knee so that your right foot is flat on the floor. Cross your left leg over your right so that your left ankle rests on your right knee. Use your hands to grab hold of your left knee and pull it gently toward the opposite shoulder. You should feel the stretch in your buttocks and hips. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds, repeat ten times.
- Quadratus Lumborum Stretch– Sit on the floor. Then extend your right leg at an angle of 45 degrees and bring your left heel in toward your groin. Bend on to the right side and place your right elbow on your right knee with palm facing up. Then, extend your left arm up toward the ceiling and bring it down toward your right foot from over the top of your head. Hold the stretch for 15-20 seconds and repeat ten times on each side.
- Prone back extensions-Lie on your stomach, with your face down. Position your elbows under your shoulders. Push down on your hands to raise your upper back. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds, repeat ten times.
- Lower Trunk Rotations-Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keep the shoulders flat on the ground. Gently rotate the knees to one side, hold for 10 seconds, and then move to the other side. Repeat ten times on each side.
- Hamstring Stretch-It helps in maintaining the flexibility of the hamstring muscles and lessen the strain on the lower back. For static hamstring stretch, prop the back of your heel up on a table, keep your back straight, and lean forward at the hips. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat five times. For a dynamic Hamstring stretch, lie on your back, reach hands behind your knee, keep the knee at a 90-degree angle, and kick up until you feel stretch.
Once the Lumbar Strain pain and spasm subsides, one can start with lower back strengthening exercises focussing on abdominals, back extensors, and hip extensors.
Prevention of Lumbar Strain-
- Maintain core strength, which helps in spinal stabilization.
- Adopt correct posture while sitting, standing, and moving around.
- Do not lift heavy weights beyond your capability.
- Use correct lifting techniques. Keep the weight close to the body. Try to squat instead of bending your back for lifting.
- Keep your lower back supported while sitting.
- Use a medium-firm mattress.
- Keep yourself fit by doing gentle exercises and maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts added stress on the structures of the lower back. Exercise and stretch your back muscles regularly.
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